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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Making a Stand for Innocence [2]

We must all respect cultural distinctions and traditions, but there are certain moral and universal truths to our humanity that we must unshackle from the dark ages of dogma.

Gillian Gibbons, a British schoolteacher from Liverpool, has been arrested in Sudan for letting her pupils name a teddy bear Muhammad. She may face blasphemy charges for insulting Islam's Prophet and a conviction could mean six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine. British officials are trying to secure her release.

Meanwhile, Saudi justice officials are trying to justify the gang-rape of a couple because the charged girl has been revealed as a married woman who confessed to having an affair with the man she was caught with.

Although the Saudis are trying to excuse the inhumane rape of the man and woman with an extramarital affair, the case of the unidentified woman drew international criticism after an appeal increased her 90-lash sentence to 200 lashes and six months' jail. The justice ministry statement rejected "foreign interference" in the case.

The 'pink' gang has staged protests against corrupt officialsHowever, several hundred vigilante women of India's northern Uttar Pradesh state's Banda area believe that inhumanity has past its sell by date, and have refused to tolerate it any more.

They wear pink saris and stage protests after corrupt officials and boorish men. Proudly calling themselves the "gulabi gang" (pink gang), they strike fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and have earned the grudging respect of officials.

Their feisty leader, Sampat Pal Devi, is a wiry woman, wife of an ice cream vendor, mother of five children, and a former government health worker who set up and leads the "pink gang".

"Mind you," she says, "we are not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We are a gang for justice."

Back in Europe, gangs of a different nature believe they are making a stand for the death of two innocent youths, who were both from ethnic minorities, by ransacking suburbs of Paris. Nearly 80 French police officers have been injured, six seriously, during a second night of riots by youths yesterday, who say they are avenging the two teenagers killed when their motorcycle hit a police car on Sunday.

Local youths have said the police car's stoved-in bonnet suggests it rammed the teenagers and the teenagers' relatives and other local residents say the police did nothing to help the dying teenagers.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a visit to China, said he wanted "everyone to calm down and let the justice system decide who was responsible." He was heavily criticised two years ago after he called for crime-ridden neighbourhoods to be "cleaned with a power hose" and described violent elements as "gangrene" and "rabble".

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